Discover: Charleston, South Carolina

Vacations have always been different for my family. Ever since I was a little girl, my dad coached a select summer baseball team. As a result, I have always done most of my traveling through baseball tournaments. A few of my favorite places have been Orlando, Florida, St. Louis, Chicago, Pittspurgh and Ontario, Canada. This year, I’m adding Charleston, South Carolina to that list after my brother had a baseball tournament there. My family made the 10-hour drive a few days before the tournament began so we could appreciate the scenic history and culture the city has to offer.

Exploring Charleston’s History

My family and I spent the first day downtown, admiring the historic buildings like Rainbow Row and shopping at The Historic City Market. One of the most popular items that were being sold at the market were hand-woven grass baskets. I loved the originality of the baskets and how they related to the city, so I was curious about buying one, but to my surprise, they ranged from $200 to $300! Later, I learned that the price is so high because of the amount of time and energy it takes to weave just one basket.

That afternoon, we drove to the Angel Tree. Pictures definitely don’t do this species of Oak justice! Over the years, the branches have looped and intertwined. Due to its age, the park has posted up some of the branches to help support the weight of the tree. 

Embracing South Carolina’s Marine Life

The second day we went on a kayaking tour! I love kayaking at our family cabin in Northern Minnesota, but let me tell ya, kayaking on a lake is a piece of cake compared to the currents in the ocean [my arms were noodles the next day]. We also saw so much marine life like crabs, pelicans and a family of dolphins. 

Finding a Balance

The next few days followed with baseball games and some really good food with the team. My family has always struggled with balancing these trips as a family vacation and tournament. In years past, I have been the only older sibling on the trip and have felt out of place. I don’t necessarily want to hang out with the parents, but I also don’t want to be around my brothers. This year was different. My family made a conscious effort to balance family time with baseball time and it made all the difference in making this trip a memorable one.

10 Essential Items to Bring to College

As the first child in my family to go away to college, it’s safe to say I was absolutely clueless when it came to deciding what I needed to pack. Other than the obvious [bed sheets, clothes, etc.], I didn’t really know what other items would be essential and which I could live without. I definitely overpacked freshman year [I probably overpacked sophomore year too, but that’s just how I am, okay? I have a lot of stuff]. Fortunately, between all of us here at LVNG Limitless, we’ve had a LOT of time to learn from trial and error. Here are our top 10 essential items that made life so much easier when going away to school. [Find a ~complete~ college packing list from Alicia here.] —Grace

Planner

All throughout elementary school, I was given a year-long academic planner [along with other generic school supplies] from the school’s administration. By the time I went to high school, it was just natural for me to purchase a planner with the rest of my notebooks. It wasn’t until I got to college and realized that not everyone plans out every minute of every day [guilty] in a spiral-bound book. But trust me, you’re gonna want some way to keep track of your classes, papers, exams and any other meetings or events you have going on throughout the year. Recently, I’ve started utilizing Google calendar more, but there’s just something about having a pen and paper record of my responsibilities that makes me feel more organized. [Pro tip: Our fav planner brands are Passion Planner, Blue Sky and Vera Bradley.]

Headphones

It seems like an unimportant item, but when finals are coming up and the population on campus seems to double as everyone finally begins to attend class and camp out at the library, you’re really going to want a pair of headphones. We recommend investing in a high-quality pair [we recommend AirPods and wireless Powerbeats] to drown out any distractions while trying to be productive. [Bonus: having a pair of wireless headphones will also be incredibly convenient during your workouts.]

Multi-drawer cart

Let’s be honest, dorm living does not come with a lot of storage and it doesn’t cost much to provide some of your own [ask your roommate to split the cost to make it even cheaper!]. Home goods stores are the perfect go-to when looking for practical storage products. The most ideal is a rolling cart that contains multiple drawers. The drawers can be so convenient to store snacks and other miscellaneous items while the wheels make it easy to keep it out of the way.

Mattress topper

You know the stories of dorm mattresses having absolutely no comfort factor? Yeah, well, those stories are true and I guarantee that if you try to sleep on the mattress as is, you’re not going to be very well rested. Simple mattress toppers can be inexpensive, especially the ones made specifically for dorm beds [twin XL, in most cases, if you were wondering]. It doesn’t take anything too fancy, but even just some layer of cushion on top of the stiff springs and vinyl fabric will improve your sleep drastically.

French Press

Coffee is expensive. As a self-proclaimed coffee addict, I can tell you for a fact that spending $2.75 on an iced coffee everyday really does add up. So, for Christmas I asked for a french press coffee maker and finally made the switch during spring semester [I still buy coffee, of course, but significantly less]. The beauty of a french press is that you have the option to brew coffee regularly for a hot morning mug, or brew the grinds with cold water and let sit in the fridge overnight for a sweet glass of iced coffee. Bags of coffee grinds and coffee creamer are much cheaper than most individual coffee drinks and require purchase a lot less frequently. [Alternative: Keurig’s are also a convenient replacement to the dorm-forbidden coffee pot, but lack the option of cold brew – some brands even make biodegradable K cups for those of you worried about the waste that a Keurig produces.]

Powerstrip

You probably won’t have many outlets in your dorm room [or, if you do, they may all end up on your roommate’s side]. Specific powerstrips are allowed in the dorms and are a lifesaver when all you have to work with for the year is one single outlet. You’re going to need more things plugged in than you might realize [phone charger, laptop charger and a lamp, to name a few]. 

Printer
In true collegiate fashion, most universities charge a fee to use the library’s printers. Investing in a high-quality printer that will last even after you’ve graduated is the smartest move. Not only will you save on each page printed [we promise, at some point you’re going to have to write a long essay and it’s going to need to be printed and those 75 cents per-page can really add up], but you will also be able to print from the comfort of your own home. There’s nothing worse than realizing that final paper due first-thing tomorrow has yet to be printed and the nearest printer is nowhere near your way to class.

Command Strips

Check with your specific residence hall on this one, but most dorms require Command Strips when hanging picture frames, tapestries, etc. Though some newer dorms prefer you use nails, most will opt for the less-mess alternative. Command Strips will protect your walls from any holes or damages that you could be charged for at the end of the year. Command Hooks also offer one more place to store items like towels, jackets and bags.

Water bottle / reusable cups

We’re all about reducing our plastic use and reusable water bottles and cups are the easiest way to do so. Brands like Camelbak and Hydroflask are specifically designed to keep your water cold for long periods of time, so you’ll stay adequately hydrated during a long day of classes. Reusable cups and straws are also a good alternative when buying coffee or tea from cafes on campus [most coffee shops will even offer a discount if you bring your own cup!].

Drawer liners

Dorms are the perfect place for germs to manifest. Sharing such a small space with another person is bound to make cold and flu season unbearable [if your roommate gets sick, you may as well start counting down the days until you’re sick as well]. Though each dorm is cleaned after former residents move out, one place that is most commonly neglected are the inside of dresser drawers. Sticky temporary drawer liners not only provide a layer of protection from any lingering germs, but also add a flare to the drab school-issued furniture. 

~Still want more? Check out our girl Savannah’s college packing essentials!~

Discover: Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Growing up, I was lucky enough to be surrounded with people who would become my lifelong friends. Being from a small town, my graduating class was fewer than 100 people, and I’ve had the same friends since kindergarten, some even since preschool. After we all graduated high school, we still have managed to find ways to stay in touch and see each other when possible, like visiting each other at school or going on vacations together during school breaks. This past week, my group of friends and I made the 12-hour journey to Kiawah Island, South Carolina, and had an amazing time.

I have a love-hate relationship with packing for a vacation, as it seems I either underpack or pack way too much. However, for this trip, I feel like I packed well; but I also seriously planned out my outfits. Many of the bathing suits I bought before this trip were actually from Amazon [they have some amazing, cheap bikinis] and I took a trip to Target before my trip to get a really cute midi dress to wear out to dinner. Other than my “nicer” outfits, I brought along a lot of t-shirts and shorts to wear to the beach. 

Obviously, the least favorite part of the trip for anyone was the car ride. On the way there it wasn’t  that bad, though, because we had something to look forward to — the beach, sunshine, nice weather, exploring a new place, etc. However, we did drive through part of the Smoky Mountains and caught glimpses of beautiful sunsets [both on the way there and the way back] which made the drive a little more bearable.  

My friend Mary’s family owns the house that we stayed at. The location was so beautiful, sitting very close to the beach. There’s only one grocery store on the island and it’s located in a little plaza with all kinds of different retail stores and restaurants, like Vineyard Vines and Southern Tide, and it even had a Ben & Jerry’s. Although the island was definitely small, it was so welcoming and we were always able to find something to do. 

The downtown area of the island, called Fresh Fields, is home to a variety of restaurants, such as a sushi place and Irish pub that me and my friends went to on our trip. There’s a definite sense of community on Kiawah, even though it’s such a small place. While we were enjoying a nice dinner at a restaurant in Fresh Fields, just down the street there was a movie on the green in the middle of downtown, and you could tell families were enjoying spending that time together. 

The beach was my favorite part of the trip by far—the sand was almost white and the water was so clear. On our final day at the beach, however, my friends Abby and Evie got stung pretty badly by some jellyfish. Regardless of the jellyfish incident, it was nice to lay on the beach and go swimming in the ocean [which was oddly very warm]. Before my trip, I bought a $5 float from Five Below, and I was not expecting it to be a good purchase, but I of course used it in the water, as well as a seat on the beach.  

Another purchase my friends and I made before our trip was disposable cameras. We were inspired by one of our favorite Youtubers, David Dobrik, who carries around disposable cameras all of the time to take random pictures of his friends. This was really fun, and I like the idea of being surprised about what pictures were taken and what moments were captured, that weren’t captured on our cell phones. 

Overall, I’m so glad I got to spend the week with my friends, as this will probably be the last summer that we’re all together. I’m also glad I got to explore Kiawah Island, South Carolina, and I hope I’ll be able to visit it again someday soon. 

Discover: The Great Smoky Mountains

Over the past weekend, my boyfriend and I took a somewhat spontaneous hiking trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, and now that I’m back home in the busy city of Columbus, I’m already planning our next trip! We spent three days in the mountains, and above everything else that made it so monumental, I loved the opportunity to relax and clear my mind.

Instead of staying at an expensive resort by the Smoky Mountains, I decided to try an Airbnb for the first time. I admit, I was somewhat nervous to stay in someone else’s home, but now that I’ve tried it, I can confidently say I would do it again! My Airbnb was in the tiny town of Maggie Valley, North Carolina. The town had many tourist-oriented shops, but after further exploration, we found that the people and the local restaurants were what made Maggie Valley so wonderful.

To get to our Airbnb, we drove up a pretty steep road that led us to a perfect cabin situated next to a creek and a private pond. We stayed in the lower level of the owner’s home, but it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. Each night after we got back from exploring, we enjoyed grilling out on a deck and relaxing in a hot tub right next to our back door. I’ve tried relaxing in the past [and somehow always fail] but it was impossible to feel anything but calm while listening to the sounds of the creek, with no cell service for miles. 

Another highlight of our trip was our full day of hiking. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has so many trails, but I would recommend Clingmans Dome and Chimney Tops Trail. Clingman’s Dome is actually the highest point, at over 6,000 feet, in the Smoky Mountains, North Carolina and Tennessee! We left to walk this trail early in the morning to beat traffic, and it was well worth it. The climb was decently steep, but easily manageable [there were many resting points]. This trail was amazing because we got so high that we were literally surrounded by clouds, standing on a lookout that was easily 10 degrees cooler than the point at which we started. It was unreal to see the park from so high off the ground! 

Despite having sore legs, we went to our next trail about an hour away. Chimney Tops trail seemed like the perfect addition to our day, afterall, it is only 3.3 miles. However, we couldn’t have been more wrong about what that would entail. The distance is short, but the climb was incredibly steep. After climbing for about an hour, we were relieved to see a sign for the overlook, only 0.8 miles away, but we would be climbing over 900 feet to get there. The hike was insanely challenging for both of us, but we had fun supporting each other and stopping to take in the incredible views along the way. It was difficult, but I would do it again! 

After spending our day hiking, nothing sounded better than a shower and a nap. That night, we were completely spent, and decided to relieve our muscles in the hot tub, before going to bed around 10 [the earliest I’ve gone to sleep in about 5 months; it was awesome!]. Because we only spent Saturday evening through Monday morning there, we had to pack up and leave early the next day. On Monday morning, we decided to stop for breakfast at a local restaurant called Joey’s Pancake House. If you’re ever in North Carolina, I totally recommend getting breakfast here. My boyfriend and I both loved the small-town vibes and had fun observing how social and friendly everyone was! 

Instead of immediately going home, we decided to make a quick stop at Ripley’s Aquarium of The Smokies to see the 340-foot shark tunnel, pet the stingrays and watch the penguins. Tickets to the aquarium are pricey, but it was well worth it. There were so many types of sea creatures we would never have imagined existing, and I had never seen them at any other aquarium! 

Driving home from our trip was bittersweet, but we both know we will be back in the Smokies sooner rather than later. I loved exploring a new place with such a great travel buddy, relaxing and catching up on some much needed sleep. The best part about this vacation was that the entire trip was less than $200! If you’re looking for a quick getaway, take a trip to the Smokies! 

How To: Travel With Ease in Europe

If you’ve been following the blog [or my personal Instagram] over the past two months, you probably know that this summer I was fortunate enough to be able to study abroad in Toledo, Spain. 

While in Spain, I visited eight cities and two countries [which would have been 13 cities and five countries, had my purse not been stolen the final weekend forcing me to cut my trip short]. A lot of people don’t know how easy [and cheap] it is to travel through Europe, so here are my “do’s and don’ts” for traveling through Europe on a budget. 

When traveling to near-ish [i.e. 250 miles or less] places — TAKE A BUS

Buses in Europe [and South America, if you’re curious] are SO much roomier and cleaner than buses in America and I would 110% recommend taking one if you’re traveling within one country or if you’re in a city near a border [i.e. Barcelona]. Bus tickets range from $15 to $100 roundtrip, depending on how far you’re going and how populated the area you are headed to is. The time for the trip will be a bit longer but when money is on your mind, losing six hours and saving $150 is definitely worth it. 

If you’re traveling alone, stay in a hostel 

While there are some preconceived notions about the safety and quality of hostels from stereotypes portrayed in certain movies [i.e. “Hostel”], all the hostels I have stayed in over the years have been great. When looking at hostels, always go to trusted hostel websites like hostelworld and hostels. From there, make sure you’re in your price range. Whether your budget is $20 a night or $200, you’ll be sure to find something. Next, I always make sure they have metro access, are at least somewhat close to popular attractions of the city, have lockers and offer breakfast. Finally, I read the reviews to find the best hostel for me. I have yet to stay in a bad hostel [knock on wood] just by following these easy rules. 

If you’re traveling with a group, stay in an Airbnb 

I’m sort of new to the Airbnb scene because I really haven’t done much group traveling until Spain. In Madrid, Cuenca and Barcelona, I traveled with a group of people [four to nine  of us for each trip] and we stayed in Airbnbs for all three. The Airbnbs were always nice, spacious and in perfect locations. I followed roughly the same rules for finding Airbnbs as I did for hostels and we were pleasantly surprised each and every time. Airbnbs make group travel much easier than a hostel [hostels fill up fast and there is no guarantee that you will be sleeping in the same room as your friends]. There also isn’t a common space to cook and hang out in a hostel. This isn’t as much of a problem when traveling with one person, however, with nine people, it’s sort of a hassle. Airbnbs offer all the commodities of a house or apartment which fit the needs of every traveler. You can spread out after a long day of walking, cook dinner, open a bottle of wine [or four] and play some card games all in the comfort of your own kitchen, 

Use incognito mode

Airlines will hike up the prices for flights when they know you’re looking so make sure whenever you’re searching for hotels, flights, etc. you are using incognito mode [meaning your data and cookies won’t be saved, so websites can’t keep track of what you are searching] on your computer. This will save you so much time, money and you will be less stressed when you don’t see the prices change every time you refresh your page. 

Picking the days of the week for your trip is SO important

When I went to Paris over my birthday weekend, I wanted to go from Thursday to Sunday. I couldn’t find a single flight below $200 to return on Sunday and I was becoming so disheartened. Would my dream of spending my birthday weekend in Paris not come true? Then, I changed the days of flights I was looking at to Friday to Monday. I booked a roundtrip flight for $96 [with RyanAir —100% recommend them for weekend trips when you aren’t packing a lot]. I was floored. Yes, weekends are the ideal time to travel for you, but that means they’re also the ideal time to travel for everyone else. Miss that Monday morning class and stay an extra day in Paris [SUCH a sacrifice], you might save over $100 😉

Use Trip Advisor or sites similar

I love doing touristy stuff when I go new places. Walking tours, museums, bus tours, etc. and Trip Advisor and Civatitis are the places to look. I booked free walking tours, bus tours, boat tours, and more using these websites for a lot cheaper online than with a travel company in the actual city. Through these, I not only saved tons of money but I met a lot of other solo travelers who I wound up spending the rest of time in that city. It’s truly a win-win. 

Traveling through Europe isn’t just reserved for social media influencers and retirees. With these simple tricks and a little bargain hunting, anyone can make their dream of basking in the Tuscan sun or having a cappuccino while wearing a beret in Paris a reality.

Why Detox Teas Shouldn’t Be Capitalizing on Girls’ Insecurities

Last month, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal called for a federal investigation into the companies that produce detox teas. News of the demand went viral on Twitter, and even gained attention from actress Jameela Jamil [a well-known advocate against such products]. 

Detox teas and other weight-loss supplements [like appetite suppressant lollipops] are promoted online by celebrities and social media influencers. The problem with this marketing strategy? Very few [if any] of these products are regulated by the U.S Food and Drug Administration [FDA]. 

LVNG Limitless contributor and soon-to-be Registered Dietician, Leah Maxey, explains the importance of our food and supplements being approved by the FDA in a previous blog post. She adds, “They’re not regulated and no one knows what’s actually in them half the time.”

Though it may be obvious to many people that unregulated weight-loss products are nothing more than a capitalistic scam, a lot of impressionable young women still fall victim to these companies’ false promises. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve tried detox teas in the past and neither are Jess Deyo [our own copy editor] and Alicia Heninger [our co-founder]. 

Last semester, Jess bought Zerotea, a detox tea off of Amazon to try to lose water weight before a beach vacation. The tea cleanse was meant to be taken three times a day to suppress hunger. In turn, Jess wasn’t consuming as many calories as her body needed to sustain her very active lifestyle. The flavor of the tea wasn’t even good, Jess says, remembering how she would have to force herself to finish the drink. “I know so many girls who’ve tried it and I’ve never seen anything good come from it,” she says. 

Alicia was one of those many girls when she tried Skinny Tea’s 28-day teatox. “I wanted to lose a substantial amount of weight in an impossible amount of time,” she says. But, after only a week of drinking the tea three times a day [and intense stomach pain], Alicia gave up on the cleanse. Not only was she feeling sick, but, like Jess, Alicia couldn’t stomach the taste of the tea. After deciding the cons of the product outweighed the pros, Alicia discarded the cleanse, feeling immensely disheartened.

When I was in high school, I had a similar mindset to Jess and Alicia. I was very self-conscious of the way I looked, had low self-esteem and thought “I just need to lose a few pounds.” After a celebrity promoting Teami tea, a “natural detox tea” showed up on my Instagram feed, I figured it was worth a try. The two teas [one for the morning, one for the night] were meant to provide energy [i.e. now I could substitute my sugary coffee and creamer] and increase metabolism. I bought the 30-day cleanse and lasted only about a week. Again, the taste of the tea was so bad that I could barely force myself to drink it. 

Though I didn’t finish the cleanse and therefore cannot speak to its effectiveness, I did realize one thing: the ads I saw on my social media feed were playing to my insecurities and I had fallen into the trap. Just like so many other young girls. 

Whether or not the supplements work and whether or not they are FDA regulated, the fact of the matter is this: girls, should not be taught from such a young age to rely on supplements and products to live a healthy lifestyle. Promoting these products only furthers the notion that there’s only one kind of “healthy” for women [the skinny, low-weight kind]. 

Healthy does not have only one look, it looks different on each individual person, which Leah says is sustained by a healthy and balanced diet [with real food] and an exercise regimen. On top of that, “Your body naturally detoxes itself, so products like this aren’t necessary.”

Fortunately, the body positive movement has been growing and proving that healthy is not synonymous with skinny.

Discover: Chautauqua, New York

Every year since my boyfriend, Liam, was little, his family gets together at their lake house on Lake Chautauqua in New York. I didn’t start going along on this trip till last summer but his family has always welcomed me with open arms. Lake Chautauqua is only about two hours away from Cleveland, and neighbors Jamestown, the first settlement in the United States. It’s a very small town, but it has a lot to offer. The lake house I stay at with Liam and his family is situated only feet away from the lake itself, and offers some pretty amazing opportunities for sunset watching from the porch of the house. On nicer days, the lake is definitely the place to be, for boating and even for swimming. In my opinion, the perfect way to end a hot summer day on the lake is to go for ice cream, our favorite place there is called Boxcar Barney’s.  

On rainy days the lake is still beautiful, and the sunshine peeks out at least once. Playing board games and even a good ole’ game of euchre is an easy way to pass time while the somber weather passes, and of course, we hope for sunshine. This past week while we were there, it rained almost every single day, but it was still such an enjoyable time. Regardless of the weather, there’s always an opportunity to enjoy the lake.  

Reading is also a great way to pass time while the weather isn’t so great. This past week, I read the “Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, and as an avid lover of the show, I can say that I am equally impressed with the book. I’d have my morning cup of coffee and sit on the porch overlooking the lake with Liam, while he read his book and I took some time away from my phone to enjoy the little things. Speaking of being unplugged, my goal for this vacation was to spend very little time on my phone, only really using it during the nighttime to catch up on social media. During the average week, when I’m not on vacation, I average about 7-8 hours on my phone, which I think is absolutely ridiculous. However, when I was at the lake, I cut-down my phone time to about an hour and a half. And, ever since I’ve been home, my screen time is significantly less. It’s amazing what a little vacation can do for the mind and soul.  

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something very special about Lake Chautauqua. I don’t know if it’s the scenic views, beautiful weather, or friendly people, but what I do know is that it is a place I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Discover: German Village, Columbus, OH

This month’s Hometown Hangout was spent falling in love with a small, unique part of Columbus: German Village. My family and I came out for a fun outing after work. We started the day at Winan’s Chocolates and Coffees, browsing their chocolate selection, and picked an assortment to snack on while we drank our coffees. I absolutely loved the dark chocolate pecan wurtles [their take on a turtle], pecan bark and peanut butter delights. The chocolates paired perfectly with their almond milk latte! 

After we finished our coffees we strolled down the street while admiring the beautiful brick roads and unique homes. One home was staged for an open house, so we got a good look on the inside. It was so adorable and perfect for a small family! I would love to live in a small neighborhood like this one day [preferably in Chicago or New York City though]. 

A few blocks over we ended up at The Book Loft, where we browsed the 32 [!] rooms of books. They had every kind of book you could imagine, including a large selection of vegetarian and vegan cookbooks, that made gourmet cooking look easy. After a while of browsing, I walked away with You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero. I’ve been wanting to get this book for a while and this post by Kenzie Keaton was the final push to get myself to get it. I’m super excited to sit down and read it. I plan to come down to Schiller Park, just down the street from The Book Loft, to read it!

After collecting a few other books,including Misery by Stephen King and The Beastie Boys Book, we went out for dinner. We stopped at Wunderbar and Pierogi Mountain, a bar and german style eatery combined [bonus: Monday was dollar pierogi night!]. We loaded up on some pergois, vegan mushroom stroganoff, vegan schnitzel and fries. The food was so good! The mushroom stroganoff was my favorite thing we ate. It was packed with flavor! I loved how the restaurant was very vegan and vegetarian friendly. Almost every menu item was able to be made vegan. We left with full bellies and big smiles! 

German Village is one of my favorite places central Ohio has to offer. It is a perfect area for a date night with a special someone or a day out with the family. Stop by German Village the next time you get a chance because you won’t regret it!

Recipes for a Vegan-friendly 4th of July

When the Fourth of July comes to mind, the first thing I think of are all the different foods: burgers, brats, hot dogs, cole slaw, potato salad, apple pie, corn on the cob, etc. However, once I went vegan my food options at family cookouts went from seemingly infinite to roughly two: watermelon and butterless corn. I’ve had to bring my own food to any sort of Fourth party I’ve been to in the past four years. But, last year, I discovered a few recipes that I can make on my own that are delicious and will not be scoffed at by non-vegans. I hope this makes every vegan [and fruit and veggie lover] have a great, healthy and patriotic Fourth of July this year. 

Appetizers

Who says the traditional watermelon snack on Independence Day can’t be made fun? I love watermelon and this spicy and grilled take on the sweet treat is the perfect way to turn a rather boring fruit into the perfect mix of sweet, spicy and a hint of barbeque. Just add some watermelon and cayenne powder to your grill and every guest will be happy. 

Chips and dip is a barbecue classic. However, with dairy filled dips and cheese flavored chips the vegan selection is put to a halt. With these dessert chips and strawberry salsa, I’m able to have all the enjoyment of chips and dip but personalized to my dietary needs [and with a slightly healthier twist]. If you’re not in the mood to make the chips or you’re in a rush, you can always substitute with sugar pita chips. Your friends and family won’t even be able to tell the difference when this dish is plated amongst the rest of the non-vegan dips! 

Entrees

I personally was NEVER a hot dog fan. Once I heard that they found rat feces in a certain hot dog brand, I’ve stayed clear of them. Hamburgers, on the other hand, were always a weakness of mine. Now, I do a variety of things to get my burger fix. My absolute favorite are Beyond Burgers with Daiya vegan cheddar cheese. When I’m feeling a bit more experimental, I make portobello mushroom burgers and a recipe that I just found recently [my host dad made these in Spain] are roasted beet burgers. The burger’s pinkish-red color will add a pop of patriotism to any hamburger bun. 

Side dishes

I know I mentioned above that potato salad and coleslaw are barbecue staples, but  I despised the two for the majority of my childhood. Right before I went vegan, however, I tried my grandpa’s potato salad and was absolutely hooked. Since going vegan, I haven’t been able to eat potato salad. Last year at school, I had a potato salad craving [of all things to crave I haven’t the slightest clue as to why I craved potato salad, but I did] and immediately searched google to find the best vegan potato salad. I made four different kinds that night and this one [with its subtle hint of garlic and creamy texture] was my favorite and is now my go-to party side dish. 

Another thing I love are veggie skewers. However, with most veggie skewers comes various meats [steak, sausage, etc.]. These veggie skewers use tofu instead of meat and are marinated in a barbecue sauce which makes them the perfect Fourth of July dish. Put them on the skewers, marinade and barbecue them with everything else on your menu. 

Desserts

My favorite thing about the Fourth [and summer in general] is all of the desserts! Ice cream, s’mores and literally anything with fruit [we love a good ~natural~ source of sugar]! However, ice cream, cakes, cookies, etc. are all filled with eggs, milk and butter [much to the disappointment of vegans everywhere]. Fortunately, I’ve found two desserts that are a great way to cool off on a hot summer day that are also red, white or blue [one is all three ;)] which will make the perfect Instagram worthy photo [because let’s be honest, what’s a party without a social media post?]. 

These firecracker pops are your traditional take on the classic Rocket Pop popsicle [cue the childhood nostalgia] but are made of fruit and plant-based milk rather than dairy products. Savor every last lick of these sweet pops after you’ve hopped out of the pool or are waiting for the fireworks shows to start!

If you prefer ice cream scoops to popsicles, this sorbet is just what you need. Instead of an ice cream maker, all you need are frozen fruits and their complementary flavors [i.e. strawberry and basil] and a food processor. I love making this with frozen bananas and cocoa powder because it’s got the texture and flavor of ice cream, but it’s all fruit!

When it comes time to gather with friends and family [especially when food is the focal point] it can be nerve-wracking for those of us who choose to live a vegan lifestyle. However, more and more recipes are being created and shared that turn our favorite non-vegan dishes into ones made complete dairy- and meat-free! Share your recipes with us on Instagram. [Tip: even if you’re not vegan, try one of these recipes this Fourth of July. We promise, you won’t regret it and you won’t even be able to tell the difference!]

Bonnaroo Music Festival: A Community of Love and Music

“We are all connected here tonight. Don’t let anyone tell you this feeling isn’t real, because we all know it is.” These words were spoken by Childish Gambino on Friday night of the Bonnaroo Music Festival, and I couldn’t think of a better phrase to sum up my first experience. Anyone lucky enough to find themselves at the farm this year would agree. Bonnaroo isn’t only a four-day music experience, but a chance to disconnect from the outside world and submerge yourself into a community of love, acceptance and happiness and that is exactly what I did.

Bonnaroo is located on a 650-acre farm [It’s seriously HUGE] in Tennessee. It features six main stages, with many more tents for smaller performances. This year, headliners included Childish Gambino, Post Malone, Phish and The Lumineers. Although music festival ticket prices can be intimidating, I knew I couldn’t pass up a lineup like this one. 

The first day, I was determined to see many small bands like Peach Pit, Caroline Rose, and Magic City Hippies. I had been playing them on repeat during the weeks leading up to the festival. I figured their crowds would be more intimate since their music was less known. I was incredibly wrong. Unlike what I expected, every band at Bonnaroo came with an energetic, passionate crowd. I assumed people attended the festival for the headliners or certain bands they knew and ignored the smaller ones. I had been so accustomed to opening bands at concerts never receiving the same energy as their headliners. However, at Bonnaroo, people made an effort to learn the music of every band they planned on seeing. Not only was I surprised, but the artists were too. Many performers were happily shocked with a crowd that sang every line of every song.

Friday evening,  Childish Gambino took the stage. I’ve seen Childish in concert before, so I knew I was in for another amazing performance. I was even lucky enough to secure a spot only a few rows back from the pit, so I had an amazing view. When he finally came on I felt myself in awe of the atmosphere. I truly felt connected with the crowd around me. Childish Gambino’s energy was unlike anything I had seen before. I could feel the passion he was putting into the show, putting every single bit of himself into each song. 

Childish Gambino’s Bonnaroo performance outdid the time I had seen him before by tenfold. Just as I was questioning if everyone else was experiencing the same level of pure joy as me, he said it was time to rate the crowd [he does this at every show] and gifted us with an unmatchable score of, “unreal.” The crowd was awestruck by his energy and he said the feeling was mutual. I feel confident in saying I’ve seen one of the best shows Childish has ever put on, all thanks to Bonnaroo.

I assumed my weekend had peaked at the Childish Gambino set. Once again, I was wrong. Post Malone’s set was the following night and I was blown away. In fact, it’s difficult for me to explain just how amazing his show was. I had another amazing view of the stage and I was surrounded by three of my favorite people in the entire world. Post Malone gave it his all, he truly sang his heart out and the four of us chanted back every line of every song. During his set I had the realization that I was flooded with nothing other than pure joy. The image of me and my friends [with huge grins across our faces] watching one of the best shows I’ve ever seen will be happily tucked away in my memories for the rest of my days, and I am so thankful.

Bonnaroo offered up so many experiences I thought I would never have. When checking out a booth owned by Good Dye Young [a hair dye company] I was lucky enough to meet THE Hayley Williams [lead singer of Paramore and founder of Good Dye Young]. I would’ve never guessed I’d be meeting such a lifelong idol of mine at Bonnaroo, but all of my other expectations were exceeded, were they not? Aside from meeting such an amazing person, I had to get my hair done up with their temporary color products. For those of you who love fun hair, but don’t love permanent, I highly recommend Good Dye Young’s poser paste! 

Sitting here reminiscing about my Bonnaroo experience already has me counting the days until I can get back to the farm. I was incredibly moved by the atmosphere at Bonnaroo, I had never felt so safe and accepted among so many strangers. It felt good, really good, to be in such a state of happiness. Even when I accidentally missed a set by a favorite band of mine, Hippo Campus, I found myself brushing it off much faster than I thought. Although I didn’t get to see them live, nothing is ever really that bad when you’re at the farm. If you find yourself unsure of making the leap to attend Bonnaroo next year, I urge you to just do it. You’ll find yourself immersed in a haven of love, friendship, and best of all, music.